Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander was not happy after a controversial call ruined his sterling outing and eventually led to a loss.
Verlander had cruised through five-plus scoreless innings on Sunday against the Diamondbacks, but it all came apart in the bottom of the sixth.
With Houston up 1-0 and a runner at first with one out, Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock hit a ball out to deep center field. It was over the head of Astros center fielder George Springer, and landed on the warning track.
Daniel Descalso, the runner on first, was able to score rather easily from first base, and Pollock tried to stretch his surefire double into a triple. Then, the relay throw to third got away from Astros third baseman Alex Bregman as Pollock slid right into him.
Pollock quickly got up and raced home, but was clearly tagged out before touching the plate. The Astros thought the play should have resulted in an out, but the umpires ruled Pollock was safe at home.
That call, though, had nothing to do with the play at the plate. Rather, third-base umpire Mike DiMuro decided that Bregman had impeded Pollock’s progress at third, and thus awarded him the extra base (home plate).
DiMuro’s reasoning was that as Bregman was trying to retrieve the ball, he blocked Pollock from advancing to the plate.
“When the ball got away at third, the fielder kind of got in his (Pollock’s) way when he was trying to advance to the plate,” crew chief Brian Gorman said after the game, according to Sporting News. “At umpire’s school they teach you that the fielder has to disappear. I know it’s impossible to do, but he has to get out of his way.”
Whatever the reasoning, the obstruction call meant the Diamondbacks were now leading 2-1. Those were all the runs they would need, as the final score was 3-1.
The Astros were understandably upset over the obstruction call, with Verlander even indicating that Pollock may have been guilty of a “flop.”
“Pollock sold it pretty good,” he told the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome. You see this in basketball all the time. Can you call it a flop in baseball? I don’t know. He knows the game, he got the call.”
Astros manager A.J. Hinch used stronger language when referring to the call. “I saw a horses— rule and a bad interpretation,” he said after the game.
Later, he expressed his unhappiness with how the rule had been interpreted to Peter Woodfork, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations.
However, though Verlander suggested that one call was the reason the Astros lost, Hinch admitted it was not the deciding factor. “It wasn’t what cost us the game,” the Astros manager said. “It was a catalyze that caused a more stressful game for us. But it was a bad play.”
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